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In 1992, Barry and Suzanne Birch received a donated loaf of squished bread on their front porch, which they distributed to several single mothers and others they knew in need. Before long, retailers began donating their surplus goods and the Birches’ home quickly became Birch Community Services (BCS). From these humble beginnings, BCS has steadily grown to become one of the largest food-distribution programs in Oregon. In 2015, BCS received over 9.1 million pounds of food, clothing, and household goods from more than 200 product donors which they were able to provide to over 900 families in need. In addition to offering food and clothing distribution, BCS also provides families with financial education and planning, classes on healthy eating and gardening, and a support system as these families reach for financial independence. In exchange, Birch families pay a small monthly service fee as well as donate 2 hours per month of volunteer work for BCS. Last year, “over 700 volunteers exceeded 36,000 hours of volunteer time in 2015”.
The work at BCS is never done, as they hope to continue to grow and help more families. After appearing on NBC Nightly News in 2012, other non-profit organizations have reached out to BCS in an attempt to replicate their model. Since airing, the BCS model has been replicated 7 times, in 6 different states, and they now offer training seminars to those who are interested in mirroring the work of Barry and Suzanne Birch. By the year 2020, BCS hopes to distribute over 12 millions pounds of food, clothing, work boots, and household goods to 1,200 working families in need. In addition to the work they do locally, BCS would like to see as many as 5 new sites launched each year with the continuing efforts of the Replication Seminars.
For BCS, their work is dependent on the relationships formed not only with the Birch families, but with businesses throughout the community. It is only through these partnerships that BCS is able to provide families with a sense of empowerment as they strive to improve their quality of life. There are many ways to get involved with the work of BCS, from individual and team volunteering to donating surplus food, clothing and household goods. Henningsen Cold Storage has worked with BCS for over 10 years, providing refrigerated and frozen storage space for perishable products. In addition to this provided space, Henningsen associates “adopt” Birch families during the Christmas season, making the holidays brighter for these struggling families. Henningsen Cold Storage Co. is proud to support the efforts of local non-profit organizations like Birch Community Services, and look forward to continuing this relationship long into the future.
“BCS is 10% about the food, and 90% about the people.” – Barry Birch, Founder, BCS
To learn more about Birch Community Services, please visit their website at http://www.birchcommunityservices.org/.
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